“Top Ten Tuesdays” — A guest post from Joanna Penn

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesdays, a series of guest blogs by winners of the “Top Ten Blogs for Writers” contest hosted at Writetodone.com

Why You Should Consider Independent Publishing

A guest post from Joanna Penn from TheCreativePenn.com: Adventures in Writing, Publishing and Book Marketing

Let’s get this straight up front. I would love a book deal with a big name publisher.

I’d love to see my books in bookstores all over the world. That’s still a dream of mine, as it is probably yours. It’s also the dream of many mid-list authors who have a publishing contract but the reality hasn’t quite led them to bestseller success. Despite this dream, I have just independently published my first thriller novel, Pentecost on Amazon.com as a print and Kindle book.

Why would I do that?

Publishing is changing fast and there are more choices than there used to be. You need to know all the paths to possible success for your book but first you need to understand what you actually want to achieve. There are various reasons we all want to have our books published. Here are some of them.

1)   My book is being read by people all over the world and they love it.

2)  I’m making an income from my books.

3)  An agent/publisher/editor thinks my book is worth publishing.

4)  My name is on a printed book in a bookstore.

With independent (indie) publishing, you can achieve the top two and that can lead to the last two. Going indie means you publish yourself. You may use freelancers for editing, cover design etc but you own the rights to the book and are the publisher of record.

One way to indie publish is with ebooks.

Amazon has recently announced that ebook sales have overtaken paperback sales on the Kindle. There is also exponential growth in the ebook market. The Booker Prize judges will now be reading ebook versions of the entries and that indicates a new acceptance within literary circles. Even if you haven’t changed your reading habits, a lot of other people have embraced the change.

So, one of your publishing choices these days is to release your book on the Kindle and other ebook platforms like the Nook and iPad. Amazon.com is the biggest bookstore in the world and you can have the same page space as any other author. As long as your book is professionally done, customers won’t even know it’s independently published and they won’t care. Here’s what converted me to this method of sales. You can load your book onto dtp.amazon.com and it will be selling on the Kindle within 24 hours. It takes months, if not years, to get an agent and at least 18 months for a book to be traditionally published and available for sale. Within 24 hours of Kindle publishing, I can be watching my sales tick over and at the end of the month, I have money in my bank account. So, ebook publishing will achieve (1) and (2) on the list. Some independent authors are making huge amounts of money this route and they aren’t worried about (3) and (4).

But what if you still want to hold your print book in your hands?

I understand that feeling which is why I use LightningSource.com (LS) to distribute my print book using print-on-demand technology. You’ll see that Pentecost is available as a print book on Amazon.com but I don’t hold stock or post it myself. The order goes to LS who print a copy and send it to the customer direct. I just receive a percentage of the sale at the end of the month. I paid a book designer to design a professional cover and also format the inside of the book so I’m proud of the final result and people can buy in either format.

But what if you still want a book deal?

You need to decide for yourself whether you’re patient enough to wait for the traditional publishing cycle. I’m impatient and a DIY type of person. I love to take action and see a result. I like being in control. I’ve tried the submission-rejection process and the negative energy made me crazy. There are other roads to a publishing deal, including making huge sales on the Kindle and being noticed for sales success. Check out Karen McQuestion or Boyd Morrison. There are other authors who achieve this level of success and then turn down publishing deals as they make more money on their own. Check out Amanda Hocking or the recent Amazon #1 The Machine of Death.

There are some aspects you need to consider if you choose these independent publishing paths as it definitely suits a certain type of personality. You need to treat it as a business where you invest some money for professional editing, book cover design and formatting in order to create a quality product. You then receive income from sales like any other business. It’s a different model to advances and royalties but it’s definitely easier to understand! You also need to do your own marketing so you need an author platform (although there are stories of people who are making money just by loading books on the Kindle with no marketing). Mainstream publishers expect an author platform these days as well so that is needed whatever the route you take.

So yes, I’d like a book deal, but in the meantime I’ll be writing and publishing independently.

People will be buying and reading my books, leaving me reviews, telling their friends and I’ll be building a backlist of kick-ass thrillers. For me, this positive action makes me happier and more fulfilled than waiting potentially years for someone in the industry to notice me. Whatever your dreams for your book, consider all the options available to you. It’s a new publishing world out there!

Joanna Penn is the author of Pentecost, a thriller, out now on Amazon.com.

Joanna is also a blogger at TheCreativePenn.com : Adventures in Writing, Publishing and Book Marketing.  Connect on Twitter @thecreativepenn.

25 Comments

Filed under Guest Bloggers, Uncategorized

25 Responses to “Top Ten Tuesdays” — A guest post from Joanna Penn

  1. Patrick Sullivan

    I’m planning on going down this route already, and the learning process has been fascinating. J. A. Konrath’s blog has been an education, and the Kindleboards forums are full of people who will share their insights. Even some of the big names post their periodically such as Amanda Hocking.

    Frankly, if you’re willing to invest the money for editing and a cover yourself, and have a group of readers you trust enough to tell you if your stuff is good or terrible, the long term financial possibilities are higher in self publishing unless you become the next Patterson/King/Rowling/etc (though at this rate Hocking may prove even that wrong…)

    The entire industry has been turned on it’s head, and the results are crazy to watch. Any day now Borders is expected to declare bankruptcy… all while the Big Six take up to two years to release a book by a new author… two years you could be self publishing, selling to readers, and making a name for yourself 🙂

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  3. Great post, Joanna! My mind spun 180 degrees toward self-publishing~like a magnet nearing true North.
    “Impatient” spoke to me as did;
    1) My book is being read by people all over the world and they love it.”
    Thanks for sharing your experience and your dream.

  4. I’m in total agreement. With Smashwords.com and wordclay.com, ebooks and print are both possible.

    Thanks for the post, and thanks, Larry, for inviting Joanna to your blog.

  5. I have absolutely chosen to go this route. Over the past year, I’ve gone from a no name with virtually no platform, to a moderately successful indie with 2 ebook novellas out, and claim to almost every result on the first 11 pages of Google results for my name. I sold 1,ooo ebooks last month and more than 4,000 overall in less than a year. I have a solid business plan going forward in terms of continuing to build my platform and backlist and a fanbase, and I had pretty well turned my back on New York and all the negativity that goes along with the traditional query/rejection process. I KNOW that I can eventually make a living doing what I love by staying indie. And yet, all of the work I’ve done as an indie caught the attention of an agent (who happens to represent one of my favorite authors, whose latest book just debuted on the NYT in the top ten). I’m still in negotiations, but this unconventional method has essentially landed the first half of what I always wanted right in my lap–without ever writing a single bloody query letter. And it looks like I’m going to get the best of both worlds.

  6. Having a few technical difficulties: Joanna’s responses to the comments aren’t, for some reason, appearing here — anybody got a fix for that one?.

  7. Patrick Sullivan

    Tony: Hell with Smashwords. All the real money is direct publishing on Amazon and PubIt! (B&N’s ebook self publishing arm). Very few people are making real money vs smashwords compared to those two.

  8. I’ve been a traditionally published author for over ten years. Initially, I wasn’t interested in epublishing — this was before the Kindle, though. The Kindle and other e-readers have changed everything. I’ve been more and more drawn to publishing independently, but I think I’ve been institutionalized… even though I’d be doing what I do now for a traditional publisher (promoting myself, building a platform, etc.) and getting more per-book profit.
    A lot to think about. Thanks for this article.

  9. So encouraging! I will be going the self-publishing route with my 1st book and this is very insightful. Thanks for telling your story of indie publishing!

  10. @Patrick, Smashwords distributes to other sellers. I’m also on B&N, Apple’s iBook store, Sony’s ebook store, nd Kobo’s book store.

  11. Wow, thanks for all this wonderful information. Was not aware of most of what you said. Thank you.

  12. Patrick Sullivan

    Tony: Using smashwords to distribute to amazon and B&N is foolish, less control over formatting AND you make less money. For the iBookstore/etc sure, but never EVER for the big two.

  13. Best post ever. Sure, being in Borders would be fun, but being a writer – I mean the real thing – is about being read. This make the Kindle the second best thing to ever happen to scribes, topped only by WordPress.

    Of course, one very important aspect should be noted. It is, simply, your book must be off the charts good. If you write a book that sucks, you won’t build a following or make any money. Even with the alternative paths to literary greatness, you still have to know how to write a great story. Agreed?

  14. Patrick Sullivan

    Lake: I’d argue it’s even more important. You don’t have the fact you’re on a shelf in a bookstore and whatever amount of press/effort New York will give you to help sell books. You get two things.

    1) How well you write. AKA the 6 core competencies. You need them even MORE without having the backing of the big 6.

    2) luck.

    At least one of the two you have to outdo what would be needed to get into NY to sell well enough to live… but then again most authors going through the major houses have to keep day jobs, so… *shrugs*

    However if you want to do it professionally you have to spend the money out of your own pocket. Editors, covers, etc don’t come cheap if you want them done right, and if you’re serious about this, you’d better want it done right 🙂

  15. As always Joanna, what a great post! You have completely opened my eyes to all of the options out there–I’ve always known that there were alternative options, but they’ve never been laid out so nicely. Thank you! 🙂

  16. I really like this post! My sense is that the move towards digital publishing will move very swiftly and the paper book trade will collapse. Maybe even within the next 4 years.

    It will make us independent of Publishers.
    Bring it on: Power to the writers !

  17. @Patrick, I agree, generally, but Pubit requires a US bank account to get paid (a fairly critical component of selling) and I’m a Canadian permanently in Australia. Not an option. Amazon, I’m not sure. Will have a look later.

    Thanks a ton for the advice, though.

  18. Patrick Sullivan

    Ah ha, yeah PubIt! I knew about, Amazon pretty sure you can do it from anywhere. Canada almost certainly assuming you still have connections back there.

  19. Sorry for the late commenting. Technical issues!

    Thanks to all for your comments, and I’m kind of surprised at the positive responses. I think a year or two ago, things would have been different. The stigma of self-pub may be almost over! I’d also like to share the latest in indie news, Amanda Hocking sold 450,000 copies of her books in Jan and made the bestseller list
    http://www.usatoday.com/life/books/news/2011-02-09-ebooks09_ST_N.htm
    Wow! That’s encouraging!

    @Patrick – unfortunately, only US citizens can use PubIt so I can’t publish there. I’m going straight to Amazon and then will use Smashwords for the rest. No choice for us international authors right now. I hope this will change!
    Thanks all.

  20. Patrick Sullivan

    Joanna: Easy to forget the international when one has the pleasure of not dealing with those issues, so that’s my bad

    On the other point, only recently has the kindle + nook markets been big enough to make epublishing truly viable. Once that happened and people realized they didn’t need the gatekeepers anymore, especially with people like Konrath singing the praises of self-publishing, it was due to happen, though obviously way faster than anyone would’ve guessed a year ago.

  21. Joanna,

    An excellent post.

    As crazy as it sounds, I have a movie coming out with well-known actors based on my novel, and I still could not get a big U.S. publisher. So I’m going ebook, Kindle and Nook.

    Thanks for the words of encouragement.

  22. really enjoyed this. But how much does it cost to load up your ebook to amazon? And how much is it to print your own book? And get a designer to do the front page?

  23. Genie

    This is a wonderful post. Thank you, Joanna. My feelings are still what I’ve commented on another Storyfix post, namely that we’re being inundated by a deluge of milk and personally I’m tired of having to churn it all myself to find the cream. To some wannabe authors, self-pubs seem to have eliminated the slush pile, but in truth it is miles worse. It’s just that the buying public are having to go through it instead of editors. But I’m beginning to see what the really good writers such as you are saying: Kindle/Nook has changed the game and there are many good points to it. So I will be trying to enter this quarter and not miss the kick-off. But first I’m going to write the best book I possibly can.

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